One of the triumphs of the Asus Transformer Book T100 is that it runs full Windows 8.1 rather than the cut-down RT version. Windows RT doesn’t let you install any and every Windows app, just ones from the Windows Store, making it pretty limited.
There was, of course, a reason for this limitation – most low-end Windows tablets don’t really have the power to make such scope worthwhile. Like many of those computers, the Asus Transformer Book T100 has an Intel Atom-based processor.
This is much less powerful than the Intel Core chips used in most mid-range and high-end laptops, but this latest generation of Atom processor is a big improvement that really helps to cement the attraction of the Asus Transformer Book T100.
It uses a 1.3GHz quad-core Intel Atom Z3740 CPU, which is from the new Bay Trail generation of processors. It’s much, much faster than the equivalent Clover Trail chip of last year. Our PC Mark benchmark shows that it can compete with last-gen Intel Core i3 processors, although naturally not this year’s Haswell models. For a low-cost laptop, the level of power on tap is just ok, but for a tablet the Asus Transformer Book T100 is very, very powerful.
It comes out with 2330 PC Mark 07 points. That’s very close to the Intel Core i3-powered ‘normal’ laptop that sells for up to £500. Not bad eh? However, the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 scored 4,853 points – in another league altogether.
In more practical terms, this means that the T100 is perfect for everyday uses. It doesn’t suffer from the jerkiness of some other low-end Windows tablets, and can run taxing programs like Photoshop without grinding to a halt. However, this is not a performance machine. As well as a fairly low-cost processor, the Asus Transformer Book T100 has just 2GB of RAM – not enough for serious multitasking. A result of this is that programmes still take a while to load.
The Asus Transformer Book T100 comes with Office Home & Student edition pre-installed (usually missing from non-Windows RT tablets). A version of Office is included as standard with Windows RT, but not with ‘full’ Windows, so it’s a great inclusion.
Unlike other Transformer series hybrids, the Asus Transformer Book T100’s keyboard doesn’t have its own battery to boost the tablet’s stamina. All charging is done using the microUSB port on the tablet part, meaning you don’t have to worry about losing a specific charge cable,
Asus says the battery lasts for 11 hours, but our low-intensity PowerMark test saw it sail through this for a full 12 hours and eight minutes. This is excellent stamina for any tablet, and particularly impressive in a Windows-powered one. It's considerably better than any Windows laptop we've tested and over four hours more than the Surface Pro 2. Impressive.
Another pleasant surprise is that the Asus Transformer Book T100 has stereo speakers, which fire out of tiny grilles drilled into the glossy plastic rear of the tablet. These aren’t the only spots that output the sound, though. The speaker isn’t fully isolated, meaning it vibrates the back of the tabet at high volume and sound leaks out of the bottom sockets. It doesn’t really matter, though, as it doesn’t spoil the stereo image, and stops covering the grilles from becoming an issue.
Sound quality is respectable for a budget tablet, but not truly remarkable. It’s not too harsh or tinny, and having stereo sound is great for watching movies. Top volume is decent, but lacks the low-end bulk and power of the best tablet speakers. It doesn’t feel like a serious compromise.
What is a more obvious cost saving is the rear camera – the Asus Transformer Book T100 doesn’t have one.
It only has the one front camera, used for video chat. It’s a 1.2-megapixel sensor that produces unremarkable images. Photos are noisy and lacking in detail, and there’s light bloom around strong light sources that marks out a pretty low-end camera sensor.
There are also some minor omissions in the Asus Transformer Book T100’s connectivity. You get Wi-Fi n and Bluetooth 4.0, but no NFC, no 3G/4G and no IR transmitter. It’s basic. However, we could count the useful applications of NFC for a device like this on one hand. And even then we’d struggle.
Should I buy the Asus Transformer Book T100?
In our last Transformer review we said its design was getting a bit musty. However, that was an Android tablet. And a low-cost hybrid like this is just what the Windows 8 tablet market needs.
The Asus Transformer Book T100 feels like a necessary maturing of the budget Windows 8 tablet. It’s practical, pretty powerful, has a half-decent screen and its flexible design mitigates the lack of games and apps designed for Windows 8 tablets – compared to Android and iOS tablets.
It’s not perfect – there are clear generational improvements to be made in the screen tech in particular, and the trackpad needs a tweak – but this is a tablet that really can double as a laptop for light duties. We’d rather have a T100 than a Surface 2 and at present there’s nothing that can touch it that offers the same power and flexibility at this price.
The Asus Transformer Book T100 is a tablet that leaves out frilly features in order to bring the Transformer form to Windows with zero impact on cost. And what has resulted is a bit of a hit. If a tablet-laptop Windows 8 hybrid is what you’re after, you can’t do any better at the price.
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